Amazon EC2 vs Lightsail. Which one is better?

In this article we are going to compare Amazon EC2 and Lightsail in terms of their usage conditions, benefits, and pricing models, so you will be able to choose the right option under the given circumstances.

First, let me go through a short introduction to each.

What is Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2)?

Like any other cloud based computing platform, EC2 provides computing capability in one of the world’s best cloud environments. It comprises of virtual servers, security groups, networking and storage.

What is Amazon Lightsail:

Amazon Lightsail is a pre-configured environment that provides everything needed to launch and deploy a project. In simple words, you can say that Lightsail is a subset of EC2 which offers previously set options to choose from, according to the project requirements, including SSD based storage, DNS management, static IP, computing environment, and, above all of these, a fixed price.

Here is a brief comparison of Amazon EC2 vs Lighsail.

It depends on the situation:

Use Lightsail if:

You are a startup

If you are a startup and new to web hosting and especially cloud computing, and want to run your own blog or business website, the aws lightsail service is ideal for you. You can choose pre configured infrastructures with popular frameworks and CMS like WordPress, Joomla, Node.js etc. The startup phase is like a struggling phase where you get limited resources, limited funds and limited experience. In this point, diverge your focus to learning cloud methodologies, complex Linux commands, getting help with which service is better and which is not. Rather than doing this, it is always a good idea to focus on your idea and give complete attention to it.

If you have a limited blog or site:

If you have been blogging for a long time or have any other website, but if it is on a small scale, Lightsail is a good option for you. It is easy to setup and you don’t have to go through complex processes involved in setting up an EC2 instance, like setting security groups or how much RAM or processor you require, or setting up a cloudwatch or other stuff. Lightsail instances are pre configured for small to medium sites and even established sites and apps can get benefit from that. Just select your region and a package according to your bandwidth and that’s it.

If you like simplicity:

Simplicity doesn’t mean a lack of knowledge or expertise. I define it as organizing things in the most efficient and simple manner. If you are fond of simplicity, I would recommend Lightsail because it is simple, to the point and easy to use. In other words, you can say that it is more user-friendly than EC2.

You have come to aws from an old school shared hosting platform:

Cloud based systems, especially aws, are a completely different and more advanced platform as compared to a normal shared platform that you have used before.

On normal hosting or shared hosting, more than one website is hosted on a single server which shares common resources. On the other hand, in cloud based hosting, the website is hosted on a series of servers and, in the instance an issue occurs, the site can easily be transferred to another server. Thus, on the cloud-based platform, you will get low downtime.

Lightsail is a complete package comprising of a VPC, DNS management, a static IP, storage which is SSD based, and data transfer (which is free, but not completely free) and you do not have to setup any security groups. While in EC2, you have to set it up from scratch.

You don’t have seasonal traffic.

If you have steady traffic, then a lightsail is a good option. Seasonal traffic is the traffic which is increased or decreased according to a specific session of a year. In such a situation, the potential resources required to run an app or website are unpredictable. They may require an upgrade or downgrade depending on the situation. But if this is not the case, then the lightsail is good, otherwise don’t go for it.

You don’t have that much understanding of cloud based infrastructure yet.

Cloud based systems, especially aws, have a unique infrastructure as compared to other deployment options. They have DNS, load balancers, a lot of options for instances, images, snapshots, health monitors (not yours, but the system itself) and dozens of other options. Like security groups, etc. If you don’t have that much knowledge and you just want to give it a try, start with lightsail. Deploy your app there and then go to learn how the aws offered services can help you reach the next level. Similarly, the Lightsail interface is also very simple and easy to use for a newcomer, but it is limited, as compared to EC2.

In the comparison of Amazon EC2 vs Lightsail,

Use EC2 if:

You need a specific distribution

If you are looking for a specific distribution and it is not available on lightsail, you can use EC2 for that purpose, where you can find your ideal one. Just go to your Amazon EC2 console and click on the Create Instance button, as shown in the image below. Similarly, Lightsail also doesn’t offer you the option to change instance type.

You are coming to us from a VPS or dedicated server background.

A VPS works like a cloud-based system, but the only major difference between the two is that on a VPS, if the server is destroyed, the connection to the server will be lost and data could be wasted if not backed up properly. While, on the other hand, in a cloud environment, your app is shared and hosted across multiple zones, also called edges. So, if a server on one edge fails, a web app is picked from another edge and then, on the damaging end, the new server is deployed.

So, if you are a user of a VPS or dedicated server before, then you will feel comfortable with cloud based platform because you are already familiar with server setup from scratch, software installation, sftp etc.

Lightsail instances are created from t2 family of EC2 instances. But EC2 offers more than that which you can choose according to the need of project.

So, in terms of Amazon EC2 vs Lightsail, you should prefer EC2, if you are from a VPS background.

You have a seasonal traffic.

If you have seasonal traffic and you need more server resources and sometimes less, then you can use EC2 where you can fine tune the resources easily, according to the requirements. While on lightsail, the resource limit is static.

You need special security groups settings.

If your app needs a special virtual firewall, you should probably use EC2. You can apply the same configured group to different instances while you can also create a unique group for each instance. So, there is a lot of flexibility in it and you can even assign a Linux-based security group to all instances. While there are some limitations to it in the Lightsail environment. Along with this, you can allow ssh access to only your IP, while Lightsail does not provide this feature.

The size of the app is unexpected.

There is an expectancy of growth in the number of files and file size in the future. On lightsail you can also add more disks to increase storage volume, but adding other resources accordingly is not that easy.

You need more firewall controls:

EC2 offers more firewall controls than Lightsail as you only have access to specific ports in it, but on the other hand, EC2 gives you the capability of white-listing IP ranges.

And finally, the price

The pricing model of EC2 is very flexible as compared to Lightsail. This is basically because of total control of adding and removing resources with great ease.

EC2 vs Amazon comparison and statistics.

Cost per month ($)

CPU Cores

Disk Space

Data Transfer (GB)



I hope this article on Amazon EC2 vs Lightsail has given you information regarding both and when which one is best to use. Nowadays, a lot of websites, apps and businesses are moving to cloud servers as they provide better backup options, an ideal environment for teams as collaboration is easy, a flexible pricing model, assets can be controlled remotely and, above all of this, they are highly secure. My suggestion and conclusion of the above article is, if you are new to Amazon web services, try Lightsail first and then keep exploring EC2. Finally, best of luck from me on your journey with cloud based computing.

Further Resources:

I highly recommend to go through these valuable resources in order to build better foundation in AWS technology and learning more about EC2 and Lightsail.

AWS: The Complete Guide From Beginners To Advanced For Amazon Web Services

Programming Amazon EC2: Survive your Success

Amazon Virtual Private Cloud: User Guide



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My name is Nohman Habib and I am a web developer with over 10 years of experience, programming in Joomla, Wordpress, WHMCS, vTiger and Hybrid Apps. My plan to start is to share my experience and expertise with others. Here my basic area of focus is to post tutorials primarily on Joomla development, HTML5, CSS3 and PHP.

Nohman Habib


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